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Doug Mann's weblog
Saturday, 20 March 2010
The false promise of unlimited school choice & the school quality gap
Based on a post to the Minneapolis Parents' Forum
Re: New topic: The Forum and the upcoming elections

Michael Atherton writes,

"American public education has failed and continues to
fail to adequately educate children of color. The primary
difference between now and the period prior to the 1960s
is that earlier discrimination was explicitly
enforced by laws and regulations, whereas contemporary
academic failure is perpetuated passively by the
maintenance of ineffective policies and the failure to adopt
effective ones. In the face of such impotence, it is not
surprising that responsible individuals outside of the
education might promote alternatives."

Doug Mann responds:

By many measures, including testing by the National
Assessement of Educational Progress, the racial test
score gap was being closed from the late 1960s to late
1980s. I believe the widening test score gap is a result
of more racial segregation and the disparate impact of
harmful policies on students of color, including watered
down curriculum tracks and the firing and replacement
of most teachers before they complete their post-hire
probationary period (three years in MN)

I disagree that racial discrimination is no longer a consequence
of laws and regulations. For example, there is a special teacher
tenure act that allows 3 school districts in Minnesota to fire and
replace every teacher employed for less than 3 full years: The
Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth school districts. Nearly all
African Americans in Minnesota were confined to those cities
at the time this law was enacted. Elsewhere in Minnesota, there
is a tenure law that permits the firing a teacher employed for less than 3
full years for misconduct or poor performance. There is no
way that school districts elsewhere in the state can create
a revolving door for new teachers. The difference in the tenure
law accounts for most of the difference in teacher turnover

No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top grants do NOT call for the
modification of tenure laws as needed to end the practice of arbitrarily
firing and replacing teachers on probationary status in big city
school districts. In fact, No Child Left Behind / Race to the Top
calls for repeal or modification of tenure laws that will enable
all school districts to drive up teacher turnover rates by the same
means and with the same discriminatory effects.

Michael Atherton writes,

"And it is not just suburban schools who enjoy the benefits
of "good" students. Through "passive" discrimination a select
set of Minneapolis Public schools function as privileged
enclaves. This has occurred because of passive discrimination
that has allowed for teacher expertise and stability,
as well as middle-class students, to become entrenched while
other schools struggle."

Doug Mann responds,

There are certainly huge disparities in terms of teacher expertise
and stability between schools. On that point we agree. However, there
is nothing passive about the discrimination that produces those disparities.
The racial discrimination is a product of definite actions with predictable

Michael Atherton writes,

"Mr. Mann if you have no plan to redistribute teacher
quality, I suggest that you, and everyone else in
Minneapolis, allow students to attend whatever school
they want. Anything less is unjust and discriminatory.
Won't get you elected though."

Doug Mann responds,

Students are not allowed to attend whatever school they
want. There was rhetoric about the No Child Left Behind agenda
giving students unlimited choice. But it wasn't true.
School choice remained quite limited. The better public schools
could limit enrollment and turn away students who wanted to
escape the poor performing schools. For student attending
the worst public schools, the alternative is usually a charter
school, and some are homeschooled or go to a private or
suburban public school. 

What do you mean by a plan to redistribute teacher
quality? I once favored a redistribution of teachers
in such a way that every school site and program
would have a similar balance of teachers with high,
low and medium levels of experience and education.
But I put this forward as a one-time realignment of teaching
position, with an ongoing restriction on the assignment of newer
teachers to any established school program,
which means that some of the vacancies in schools
with the most stable teaching staff would be reserved
for newly hired teachers, or a recently hired teachers
through a bidding process in the event that the district
does not have enough new hires to go around.

I no longer support a massive realignment of teachers
for reasons already outlined in a previous post.
See: Don't drink the corporate school reform Kool-Aid

The linchpin of my plans to eliminate disparities in
teacher quality has always been an end the practice of
firing and replacing teachers for reasons other than
misconduct and poor performance. No more terminations
in the spring based on the pretext of uncertainties about
funding that result in the replacement of fired teachers.

I still favor a restriction on the assignment of new teachers
to all established school programs in conjunction with an
end to the practice of firing and replacing teachers for reasons
other than misconduct and poor performance.

Current law does not allow the district to put probationary teachers on
an unrequested leave of absence, with recall rights, as
an alternative to termination for possible or actual declines
in enrollment and financial shortfall. Unless that changes,
the administration should refrain from firing any teachers in
the spring unless the budget calls for a deep workforce
reduction that would require some terminations, but the number of
teachers fired should not exceed the number of positions to
be eliminated. Even with the downsizing that has gone on
in the past decade, there were only two or maybe three years
where the firing of any teacher was justified on the grounds
of projected or actual financial shortfalls and enrollment declines.

I agree that the status quo is unacceptable. However, the
reforms being promoted by the Obama administration
are the same reforms promoted by the Bush administration
that failed to upgrade the quality of education in poor
performing schools, and failed to reduce the racial
test score gap.

Posted by educationright at 12:51 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, 20 March 2010 12:53 PM CDT
Friday, 19 March 2010
Don't drink the corporate school reform Kool-Aid
This note consists of two messages originally posted to Minneapolis-based listservs
Also see my note of 19 March 2010,
Arne Duncan and the phony New Civil Rights Movement

Message #1. Obama Acts Like Reagan 1981, the Union-Buster | Black Agenda Report
Message #2. Is Doug Mann getting soft on the teachers' union? / Don't drink the corporate school reform Kool-Aid

Message #1
Obama Acts Like Reagan 1981, the Union-Buster | Black Agenda Report

The president has signaled loudly and clearly that he and education secretary Arne Duncan have a “'final solution” for public education. Like Ronald Reagan, Obama is portraying the unions as a threat to the national welfare.....

Comment by Doug Mann

Obama administration ignores systemic racial discrimination in state run schools

Obama's administration is carrying out a set of corporate-style school reforms, marketed during the Bush administration as No Child Left Behind: Shutting down state-run schools and pushing students into charter schools, reintroduction of merit pay, and the elimination of tenure, seniority and due process rights for teachers.

NCLB never addressed systemic causes of malfunctioning schools, like watered-down curriculum tracks and the practice common in big city school districts of firing and replacing most teachers during their post-hire probationary period, resulting in a high concentration of new teachers and super-high teacher turnover rates in most schools where students of color are over-represented. These harmful practices have a disparate impact on black students. That's what I call systemic racial discrimination.

Message #2 Is Doug Mann getting soft on the teachers' union? / Don't drink the corporate school reform Kool-Aid

Michael Atherton writes,

A number of years ago I supported and voted for Mr. Mann.
For a long time he was a lone voice detailing inequalities
in the MPS and he knew his facts.

Lately I've been bothered how on the one hand he
criticizes teacher turnover in minority schools and
on the other fails to identify that although the
union has eliminated a racist seniority policy,
they still support restrictions that prevent
the administration from relocating teachers in a more
equitable manner. The current passive approach will
take years, if not decades, to eliminate inequalities.
It seems to me that, for whatever reason, that Mr. Mann
had softened his approach towards the MFT. Perhaps
I'm confused and Mr. Mann has a reasonable solution
to redistributing teacher quality. Mr. Mann?

Doug Mann responds,

I advocated a scheme to reshuffle the teaching staff to instantly achieve a
a more uniform balance of the most to least experienced teachers in
all schools. However, I came to the conclusion that such an approach
would do the district more harm than good. And here is my reasoning

1. The critical problem is the practice of firing and replacing most
teachers during their probationary period, which results in a high
concentration of new teachers and high turnover rates district-wide, and
a super high concentration of new teachers and super high turnover rates
in schools where low-income and minority student just happen to be
over-represented. The poor retention and high turnover of new teachers
was identified as a critical problem and was made the focus of the
district-wide school improvement plan in 2002.

2. Don't use a nuclear bomb when a stick of dynamite will do.
Ending the revolving door for new teachers is the most effective
and least painful way to stabilize the teacher staff and to lay the
basis for dramatic improvement in the quality of instruction in
the district's 'poor performing schools.'

Reshuffling teachers [to instantly balance experience levels]
would involve breaking up teams of teachers in the district's stronger
programs as well as teams of newer teachers in chronically malfunctioning
programs who might be able turn things around if the district would stop
firing and replacing them and start supporting their efforts to improve the
quality of instruction.

3. Giving the administration authority to reassign teachers "as
needed" is not something I would trust our district leadership to
use wisely. Abuses of that authority led to the enactment of a
teacher tenure law in 1926. And I think it is better to leave teacher
tenure rights intact. Under the current tenure law, even the teachers
on probationary status are not supposed to be involuntarily
reassigned unless their job is being eliminated or their reassignment
would preserve the job of a tenured teacher.

To their discredit, the MFT and the teachers unions across the US
have failed to challenge a very old and deeply rooted practice of
using black schools as teacher training facilities. I get the sense
based on chance encounters with MPS teachers while on the
campaign trail in 2008 that many MPS teachers agree with me.

I don't believe that tenure, seniority, and due process rights are
inherently bad. In fact, I think these rights should be preserved.
These rights can have a very positive effect on teacher morale and the
quality of instruction the teachers deliver. The problem isn't the
teachers, their union, and their rights. The problem is
administrative actions that do great harm to a majority of our

Glen Ford used the term 'final solution' in saying that No Child
Left Behind, as it is being aggressively promoted by the Obama
administration, is a kind of 'final solution' for the problem of teachers
unions and public education as we know it, i.e., the system of
schools operated by school districts. In many big city school districts,
the process of privatization / charterization is already halfway
accomplished. The Obama administration is pushing this agenda
much harder and getting far less resistance than W. Bush encountered.

One reason I do not object to the use of the term "final solution,"
as it is being employed by Glen Ford is that No Child Left Behind
and whatever Obama calls it is a corporatist solution that is entirely
compatible with principles of fascism / national socialism. What Joe
Nathan calls a complex strategy to improve public education is a
formula for privatization / charterization of the public school system,
and involves stripping teachers in district run schools of
tenure, seniority, and due process rights. And the pay-for-performance
is a resurrection of merit pay, an issue around which teachers organized
unions in the first place, in order to abolish merit pay and to enforce
other rights that are being lost through the implementation of No
Child Left Behind.

No Child Left Behind and whatever name its given by the Obama
administration is toxic to teachers unions and public education
as we know it. The lofty goals which the Obama administration
says it is striving to reach is just the kool-aid into which the
poison is being mixed. Don't drink the Kool-aid!

-Doug Mann

Posted by educationright at 6:03 PM CDT
new blog site: Doug Mann for Minneapolis School Board, citywide, 2010

Posted by educationright at 3:42 PM CDT
Arne Duncan and the phony New Civil Rights Movement
A response to

Crossing the Next Bridge: Secretary Arne Duncan’s Remarks on the 45th Anniversary of "Bloody Sunday" at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma, Alabama

In passages from a recent speech, Arne Duncan employs the same rhetoric about a New Civil Rights Movement to promote the same agenda as partisans of No Child Left Behind during the W. Bush administration.

Below are two long passages from Duncan's remarks, and comments by Doug Mann

1st passage from Duncan's remarks, addressing the issue of equal educational opportunity

"...So when I look at the cause of equal educational opportunity in 2010, I
ask: How do we maximize freedom and opportunity in schools and
communities where low-income black and brown children, and students with disabilities, still are treated unequally?

"The answer, in part, is to remember the mission of Title VI of the Civil
Rights Act. When President John F. Kennedy first introduced the
legislation that would become Title VI, he said that "simple justice
requires that public funds . . . not be spent in any fashion which
encourages, subsidizes, or results in racial discrimination."

"Let me repeat that. President Kennedy said that no taxpayer dollars
should be spent if they subsidize or result in racial discrimination.
"Indirect discrimination," Kennedy said at the time, was "just as
invidious" as direct discrimination.

"Now, President Kennedy's tests for equal educational opportunity still stand the test of time, even as they have been modified by court
decisions and public policies. We still need to challenge policies which
subsidize or needlessly result in grossly disparate impacts for children
of color.

"In his campaign speech on race in Philadelphia, Barack Obama also
reminded Americans that many of the disparities that exist today in the black community have deep roots in inequalities in earlier generations that stemmed from the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow. "Segregated schools," he said, "were, and are, inferior schools. We still haven't fixed them 50 years after Brown v. Board of Education--and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today's black and white students."

"So, yes, justice is blind. But it is not blind to injustice. I have been
on a listening and learning tour since I took office, as has my
extraordinary Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Russlynn Ali. And we
have found that educators and parents are not only aware of the next bridge to cross in the struggle for equal educational opportunity, they are ready to make that journey, with our help and support. Everywhere we go, people want to know how we can best help children. We often get asked:

* How can we better integrate our schools, promote a healthy
diversity, and reduce racial isolation?
* How can we promote equity, both in terms of the distribution of
resources and high-quality teachers?
* How can we better manage disciplinary issues?
* And how can we assure that low-income Latino and African American students get the same access to a college-prep curriculum, AP classes, and college as other students?

[end of passage from Duncan's remarks]

Commentary by Doug Mann:

The Obama administration is promoting the very same corporate-style school reform agenda marketed by G.W, Bush with the brand name, "No Child Left Behind." More than $4 billion was pumped into Race to the Top grants by the Obama administration to promote these corporate-style reforms: shutting down poor-performing public schools and opening more charter schools, pay-per-performance and the elimination of tenure, seniority, and due process rights for teachers.

Today the process of public school privatization is already halfway accomplished in some school district's. In Minneapolis, the number of students enrolled in charter schools will soon exceed the number enrolled in district run schools. The Kansas City, MO school district recently voted on a plan to close half of its remaining schools. It is more or less the same story in Chicago, New York, Philadelphia.

As a plan to fix the public school system, to upgrade poor performing schools, and to close the racial test score gap in the public school system (operated by the school districts), No Child Left Behind is a failure. If insanity if defined as doing more of the same thing and expecting different results, then the promotion of more of the same corporate-style reforms is insane.

How do you explain the existence of poor performing schools and a racial test score that has been getting wider since the late 1980s? My answer: The public schools have been getting more segregated by race and household income, and the federal and state government's have promoted harmful practices that have a disparate impact on students of color (a form of racial discrimination), such as the promotion of watered-down curriculum tracks and the practice of firing and replacing most teachers before they complete their post-hire probationary period.

The Obama administration justifies its corporate-style reforms as a means to close the racial test score gap and fix the poor performing public schools. However, we know that these reforms did not produce the same promised results during the Bush administration. And that happened because those reforms are not designed to eliminate the systemic causes of the racial test score gap and chronically malfunctioning schools, such as watered-down curriculum tracks and the utilization of black schools as teacher training facilities.

Duncan's closing remarks

"The achievement gap in our country is shameful. Fifty-six years after
Brown v. Board of Education, 45 years after Bloody Sunday, the
achievement gap is still a cancer that imperils our nation's progress.
America's school children cannot wait six years, or eight years, or 10
years, for pervasive educational inequities to disappear. Your children, my children, our children, the students gathered here today, have only one chance—one chance--for an education.

"More than a century ago, Booker T. Washington walked 500 miles to the Hampton Institute to receive an education. The force that drove Booker T. to make that long walk is known to everyone here today: In America, education is the great equalizer. It doesn't matter what your race, wealth, special needs, or zip code is--every child is entitled to a quality education.

"That's why the fight for equal educational opportunity is about so much more than education--it is a fight for social justice.

"We intend to make real that dream of equal educational opportunity that Martin Luther King glimpsed from the mountaintop. We intend to march on, on toward the dream of a colorblind society. We cannot wait. And with your help, your commitment, and your courage, we will all cross the bridge that leads to true equality. Our children, and our nation, deserve no less."

Comment regarding Duncan's closing remarks by Doug Mann

Unfortunately, Arne Duncan and the Obama administration are utilizing the rhetoric of the Civil Rights Movement while carrying out a corporate-style K-12 school reform agenda that is not designed to get us to the promised land about which Martin Luther King spoke so eloquently. The very same rhetoric was employed by stalwart promoters of No Child Left Behind throughout the W. Bush administration, including the Billionaires Club of K-12 school reformers, which includes the Waltham family, Eli Broad and Bill Gates.

-Doug Mann, 19 March 2010

Posted by educationright at 3:36 PM CDT
Tuesday, 16 March 2010
New Website, Doug Mann for Minneapolis School Board

Posted by educationright at 10:54 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, 16 March 2010 11:02 PM CDT
Doug Mann for Minneapolis School Board, citywide, 2010

Doug Mann for Minneapolis School Board in 2010

Education is a right, Not a privilege: A quality public education for all on an equal basis

No more revolving door for new teachers: Stop firing and replacing most teachers before they complete their 3 year, post-hire probationary period

Eliminate watered-down curriculum tracks. Arts for Academic Achievement is proven to boost student achievement in the Minneapolis Public Schools, but is not being used to its full potential as a tool to eliminate watered-down curriculum tracks (the purpose for which it was designed)

No to corporate-style K-12 school reforms, marketed during the Bush administration as No Child Left Behind. Fix the district-operated public schools instead of replacing them with charter schools. No to pay-for-performance and the elimination of tenure, seniority, and due process rights for teachers.



Posted by educationright at 11:58 AM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, 16 March 2010 10:54 PM CDT
Tuesday, 7 March 2006
A Missouri school teacher speaks out
Topic: Civil Rights
How public schools are designed to fail most low-income, nonwhite students
A discussion re: curriculum, instruction, testing, and discrimination
by Nancy Sayed and Doug Mann (edited by Doug Mann)

The full text is at

A Missouri school teacher, Nancy Sayed discusses the dynamics of institutionalized racism in the public schools, and explains how testing is being used to promote an agenda of decentralizing and privatizing the public school system in urban areas, not as a tool to close the academic achievement gap.

Nancy Sayed has over 30 years experience as a classroom teacher in Missouri public schools.

Posted by educationright at 11:25 AM CST
Friday, 17 February 2006
Doug Mann for School Board
For information about the 2006 campaign for Minneapolis School Board, go to

Doug Mann for School Board

Recent posts to the Minneapolis Issues listserv

Posted by educationright at 3:38 PM CST
Monday, 2 January 2006
Independent Freedom Party
Now Playing: Comments by Doug Mann from an online discussion
Below are comments by Doug Mann from a discussion on the Minneapolis Issue list
Subj: Re: [Mpls] The time is now for the Independent Freedom Party
Date: 12/30/2005

Re: "political correctness"

There is a difference between defending the interests of people with privileges and defending the interests of people whose human rights are being systematically violated. That's the difference between the KKK and NAACP, for example.

It is my hope that folks involved with the IFP emphasize an approach that unites people in a fight for human rights for everyone, and focuses on demanding changes in government policy, such as proactive enforcement of fair employment and housing laws.

We also need more people to run for the school board who advocate changes in school district policy & practices necessary to make a high quality education accessible to all MPS students on an equal basis.

Subj: Re: [Mpls] The time is now for the Independent Freedom Party
Date: 12/31/2005

In a message dated 12/30/2005 10:40:55 PM Central Standard Time,
andy driscoll writes:
>Keep this in mind: racism = prejudice + power. When blacks acquire the
>equality we whites have enjoyed here for centuries, they will have the
>opportunity to attain the power to act on their prejudices and qualify for
>the term racist...

Racism: a belief that some races are, by nature, superior to others; also: discrimination based on such belief.
-The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 1994 edition

There isn't much anyone can do about racism if it is true that blacks are completely powerless to act
on their prejudices (and in their own interests), and if whites are racist by nature, i.e., utterly lacking free will, incapable of choosing to not act in accord with racist precepts.

There is certainly an unequal distribution of wealth and power between whites and blacks. Conventional political power is heavily concentrated in the hands of a very small, mostly white minority which has an interest in perpetuating racial inequality. And history teaches us that privileged classes do not give up their power without a fight.

In my opinion, a majority of whites and blacks have more in common with each other than they do with rich people who look like them. Although racial discrimination generally works to the advantage of whites, regardless of class, it also harms poor whites, including most "middle class" whites
who have to work for a living, because racial discrimination produces a large pool of last-hired, first fired workers that drives down wage rates across-the-board.

Subj: Re: [Mpls] The time is now for the Independent Freedom Party
Date: 12/31/2005

In a message dated 12/31/2005 4:09:51 PM Central Standard Time,
erik oines writes:
>I personally agree most with Andy Driscoll's post. There is a difference
>between prejudice and racism. We white folks have to own up, give it up, and
>stand with people of color in the struggle for equity and equality. It's not
>a "guilt" thing, it's a "justice" thing. It's not their problem, it's ours.

What? It's not their problem, it's ours?
You mean racism is the white man's burden?

Sounds like a "guilt thing" to me.

Subj: Re: [Mpls] The time is now for the Independent Freedom Party
Date: 1/1/2006

In a message dated 12/31/2005 6:56:58 PM Central Standard Time, writes:
>Yes, in America, racism is our problem. We made the rules, we enforce the
>rules, and we change the rules when it suits us. To deny that we benefit
>from 450 years of racial oppression is to be completely irresponsible.

Nothing will change if we pursue a strategy of waiting for racists to stop being racists. The people who make and enforce the rules also benefit from their application. History tells us that privileged classes don't simply give up their privileges and power, they must be forced to give them up by the oppressed classes.

It is my opinion that a majority of whites are exploited and oppressed by a social and political system that is nourished by racism. They are generally less oppressed than blacks, however, their interests are not served by the perpetuation of institutionalized racism.

Redefining the term 'racist' as 'being white' eliminates the distinction between people of all colors who are consciously striving to bring about racial equality and those who support the status quo.

The formation of the Independent Freedom Party could be a very positive development, if the IFP demands immediate changes in public policy that can quickly bring about a closing of racial gaps in access to employment, housing and education, and other areas. That would force people to take sides.

Posted by educationright at 2:27 PM CST
Friday, 23 December 2005
Advocacy services for MPS parents & students
Topic: Mpls. Public Schools
I am currently working with others on an informal basis to provide cost-free advocacy services to MPS parents and students. I also want to reactivate the Minneapolis Parents Union or participate in some other advocacy project in the near future(hint to the Mpls NAACP branch).
for more information:

And I plan to stand for election to the school board in 2006. For selected writings on K-12 Education policy, see

Also see Minneapolis Issues Forum, topic "advocacy services for MPS parents and students"

Minneapolis Issues forum, message index

Posted by educationright at 8:59 AM CST
Updated: Friday, 23 December 2005 9:03 AM CST

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